doc

SOUTH Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson has branded a proposal to promote tourism by using 16-seater planes to fly wealthy visitors into Halfpenny Green Airport as completely bonkers.

Representatives on the Airport's Consultative Committee had suggested high end tourists could be flown into the Bobbington based airfield to visit places of interest in the Black Country.

But Mr Williamson insisted: "I'm resolutely against it. The suggestion should be kicked into the long grass and the sooner they do it, the better.

"It's totally inappropriate because the airport doesn't have the facilities.

"Halfpenny Green provides an important service with business flights, flying lessons and flights for private individuals. But there is already an excess of airport capacity within the West Midlands.

"Birmingham Airport doesn't even use 50 per cent of its capacity and is an under-used resource so the idea of creating more airport capacity is quite frankly farcical.

"There's also a danger that it could prove to be the thin end of the wedge. What's to stop companies like Easyjet and Ryanair moving in. I don't think that's a route we want to go down with in South Staffordshire. The idea just simply won't fly."

Mr Williamson's comments have been backed by David Giddings, chairman of Wolverhampton Airport Action Group, who said: "I believe the idea was suggested by a local Wombourne councillor completely off his own bat. I find the whole suggestion implausible."

Halfpenny Green operations manager Alistair MacKinnon has played down the proposal and said: "The suggestion hasn't come from the airport and isn't something that we're actively pursuing.

"Obviously we're always open to considerations, but of course we are constricted to what we can do by the runway length.

"We could accommodate some 16-seater planes, but they would be bigger aircraft than what we're normally used to handling. However planes over a certain size would present us with additional security regulations.

"There's nothing concrete in this suggestion at all, which hasn't even come from us and is something that's in its very early stages.

"We don't like to do things that surprise people."